OD – Let’s talk about Incarnate, tell me about the name of the album and why this title as I know Jesse (Leech, vocals) had said that is was a metaphor for being “in the flesh”, in reference to his return to the band back in February of 2012. Was this the real meaning behind it; or was there something else?
MIKE – The name kind of came to me as I as watching TV, but the name of the record does have a something to do with a cohesion of the band being back together again. With the last album ‘Disarm The Descent’ (2013), we had finished all of the instrumentation just when Jesse came back into the band and he just sort of slaps his lyrics on top of what we had already done. So this time around he had a say in everything that was going on and was there for the beginning of the entire writing process until the end and everyone contributed to this album, so it’s kind of a rebirth scenario and that just works really well with the title – ‘Incarnate’.
OD – One of the things that stood out for me on this album was the arrangement of melody around the lyrical content with bursts of huge choruses etc. This has become a trademark for K.S.E. and since Jessie came back on the last album, it almost seems like you enhanced this aspect for ‘Incarnate’, would that be a correct assumption?
MIKE – No, they just happened to come out that way. We just kind of approached the writing of ‘Incarnate’ with the attitude of “lets just do what we do”. Adam (Dutkiewicz, Guitars / founding member) just has a really good sense of how to build up choruses and work them around verses. I guess his trademark would be that he builds this momentum that progressively gets bigger and bigger in each track and that’s one of the cool things about Adam’s approach to writing. We have trusted him over the years with each album and he’s always delivered; which it just rad! In one sense, it takes some of the pressure off us, because we have somebody straight away who knows instantly how to make something bigger and better. Jesse’s always in great hands when he goes into the studio with Adam, because he knows how to bring the best out of him.
OD – Joel had commented recently about Jessie finding some pressure to put the lyrics together for this album, can you talk a little about the process in writing; as I know you were sending audio files to him?
MIKE – We had the discussion after we came off the ‘Disarm the Descent’ tour and we agreed that when we all ventured back to our homes and regular lives off the road, we would work on our ideas and demos for a couple of weeks and then meet up for a few days and collectively listen to them and talk about which ideas will work best for us. Depending on how good the demos sounded, we would take some of the ideas that we liked and work them through Pro Tools to get a strong base idea to work on and that’s really how the whole process began with ‘Incarnate’. Jesse was involved in many of those sessions and had his say in everything that was happening. He contributed to ideas regarding the arrangement of where certain melodies could go and what would work best from a lyrical point of view also.
The pressure of writing is always going to be tough for any of us but in Jesse’s case, it can be particularly hard when the reality comes crashing down that there are 16 tracks that need lyrics. I’m sure there is plenty of stress and pressure in anyone’s head when having to put something like that together. I’m sure he’s thinking, “everyone is relying on me and I hope that I can do it”, because he is kind of like the “cherry on top” if you are building a sundae made of music.
OD – You are heading out on a U.K .tour with Bullet For My Valentine shortly, will we be treated to a great deal from ‘Incarnate’ in the set list?
MIKE – Well right now we are actually playing five new songs in the set from ‘Incarnate’, which is the most we have every played upon the release of a new album. Rest assured that there will be plenty of new stuff in the set by the time we get to the U.K. We’re finding our feet with the new material in a live setting and it’s feeling really great! Each night we perform the new stuff, it’s just getting better and better, so by the time we hit the U.K. we will be well oiled and ready for battle, so to speak!
OD – Have you ever toured with BFMV before?
MIKE – Yes, as a matter of fact we have good history with those guys. They are old friends of ours from back in the early tours and I’m really looking forward to getting over there and hammering out these shows with them. It’s gonna be a fantastic tour and I can’t wait for it.
OD – The recent New York city take-over seemed like it was a great success. Whose idea was it and looking back in hindsight, was it something that you would like to do again with the old school vibe of no security barriers?
MIKE – I had the original idea way back that we could do some shows in Worcester, Massachusetts as it’s kind of close to where our hometown is. It’s just one of those areas where people will come from Boston and the other side of the State and everybody can join up in Worcester, as its distance is not too far for many people to make the journey. So that original idea just never came to fruition but our manager had brought up New York and the idea of playing a bunch of really small clubs and we just jumped at the chance. We actually didn’t know until we got there that there would be no barricades and that just made things even better. I mean there’s not too many shows that we can play at this level that involve not using barricades. We were really psyched at the prospect of just having a really “old school” type show, with stage diving like some of the really old hardcore shows that we all used to attend when we were growing up.
Those New York shows were amazing and will be an experience that we are going to remember forever and probably some of the most fun we have had playing shows in a great number of years. With the barricade issue, people are totally ‘sue happy’ these days and nobody wants to end up like Randy (Blythe, Lamb of God vocalist who was detained in a Czech prison, accused of manslaughter as a result of the tragic death of one of their fans who sustained a head injury from stage diving at one of the bands shows back in 2010), but if using barricades are a necessity for the shows and the security request that it’s present in the venue, we totally respect that. However if there are no barricades, boy-oh- boy, the fun and energy is off the chart!
There’s nothing like watching your friends stage dive in front of you; while giving you the thumbs up and having the time of their lives. It’s like everyone in the building is participating as one and the feeling from seeing that and being part of it, is just mind blowing!
OD – The shows of today have become so restricted in light of the recent terrorist attacks and the tragic and fatal incidents with Dime (Pantera) and the incarceration of Randy (Lamb of God), from your perspective have you seen a great deal of changes in the way the live shows are orchestrated these days?
MIKE – I actually really like security when it’s done right. Their presence can be amazing in helping the audience have a hassle free and safe show. It’s really the barricades that kind of suck but if they are necessary to be there for the safety of the band and the audience; then that’s just the way it’s got to be. You’re always going to get one security guy from time to time who is a little heavy handed and doesn’t really understand what is going on. I feel that today they have a bit more of a handle on what is going on and have a better understanding on what moshing / stage diving / slam dancing is. Every time we have a show, we always take time to have someone form our camp to explain things and clarify the actions that the fans might be doing during our performance.
Our shows have certainly got a lot bigger over the years and we need barricades in place to protect people, which can still be just as fun as having a less restricted environment.
OD – When you were growing up and attending shows, what is your stand out memory for bands that you saw?
MIKE – I saw the Beastie Boys in 1991 on my birthday and it was a lot like the famous New York show. It was a really big venue and I can just remember the entire crowd from back to front and everybody on stage; were all just moving in unison. The energy was just insane and utterly unforgettable with everybody jumping up and down and the guard rails were bending with the force of the crowd. Just witnessing that was so incredibly awesome, I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.
OD – Out of all the fellow musicians you have met and had the pleasure of playing with, which was the most nerve wrecking for you?
MIKE – I get weird when I meet people that I really look up to and sometimes I may come on a little strong. (laughs) I’m also a pretty shy guy and don’t do any talking; so I just kind of stare. (laughs). If you put me in front of someone that I idolize, I might be a weirdo and cause them to leave the room. I did that with John Garcia of Kyuss Lives (original member of Kyuss) when we were playing with them on some festival over in Australia and our dressing room was next to theirs and all I could do was just stare at him. I just love Kyuss so much and I wanted him to know that everyday on that tour but unfortunately I just berated him into walking away whenever I entered the room.
OD – The ultimate incarnation of Heavy Metal is?
MIKE – It would have to be a tank that could shoot out Metal T-Shirts with Lemmy driving! (laughs)
OD – In your opinion, if there was any one thing that you could change within the music business, what would it be and why?
MIKE – It would be great if people bought records again. Especially for the smaller bands that are busting their asses on the road struggling every night of the year. Some of the bands that people really like, just can’t afford to tour in some places because there is no funding from album sales and that has a huge amount to do with it. It’s very unfortunate that we’re at the climate that we’re at, but I think that labels might be able to get a handle on the way things are done. I really liked the way our label (Roadrunner Records) managed the pre-promotion on this new album. They rolled out three videos right away and then released a bunch of stuff, so people could check out the music and see if they liked it or not.
It’s a great way of doing it, because music fans don’t want to get burned by getting something that’s just garbage, so putting stuff out like that early really helps to not only get a bit of momentum happening but also gives a good indication of the quality of the albums material. Also, I just want to say that if you’re a fan of any band, you should make a point of buying their albums; as it’s the only way they will able to keep going.
Killswitch Engage ‘Incarnate’ is out now via Roadrunner Records. Click this link to order your copy.
Catch the guys on tour with Bullet For My Valentine this November / December across the U.K.
Thu November 24 2016 – NEWPORT Centre
Sun November 27 2016 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed November 30 2016 – GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Sat December 03 2016 – MANCHESTER Academy
Tue December 06 2016 – BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Fri December 09 2016 – LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
For more information on Killswitch Engage, choose one of the links below:
Words – Oran O’Beirne
© OVERDRIVE 2016